Home is a queer cooking series created by Michael Chernak, a queer filmmaker, video editor and photographer residing in East London. Focusing on providing an inclusive experience for the LGBTQIA+ community, Home is about real people and real food. It’s about coming together, taking care of each other and sharing stories. It seeks to create loving, human and honest images of queer people through something we all do each day. Food brings people together, it’s personal and creates intimacy. Filling a niche in the market for cooking shows that focus not only on food, but experiences and relations in a non-heteronormative environment, Home is engaging, heartfelt and a refreshing look at contemporary couples in this modern age. We caught up with Michael to discuss Home; his inspirations and the importance of the rite of passage of cooking.
What inspired you to start the series?
I’m inspired because I don’t see multi-dimensional representation of queer people in the media. Often times queer people are diminished to their bodies or their “deviancy”, or their differences from patriarchal culture. I’m inspired to create images of queer people that are honest and intimate. Eating a meal around a table with friends and family was always the closest time for me. When we would have queer pot-lucks, dinners or brunches, we would invite friends we already shared memories with, and often at times people we hardly knew yet. The conversations shared during these moments were always productive and people understood each other calmly and respectfully. Sometimes sharing a meal with people makes it easier to talk about the hard issues in our communities.
How do you find people to participate?
A lot of the people I film are my friends, people I already have connections with. If the participants aren’t my friends, they are people I follow through social media, mostly Instagram. Before I moved to New York and London, I did my research and found people who inspired me. Whether they were bakers, burlesque performers, drag queens or bankers, I reach out through a simple message through social media and we go from there.
Are there any foods that you would consider to be particularly queer in nature?
I don’t believe food itself is queer in nature, however it is what’s behind it that can make it queer. For example, I believe that making a decision on where you buy your food can be queer. Instead of supporting large corporations and choosing to support locally owned grocery stores instead is a queer and political move in itself. I believe being vegetarian and vegan is queer, being conscious about waste and how you use your leftovers is queer. The who, what, where and why around a dish can be queer. Anything that goes against the grain that society tells us is “right” can be queer.
From a queer perspective, how would you consider the rite of passage of cooking to be vital?
I love how there are different levels of experience associated with cooking. Everyone I’ve filmed ranges between being super inexperienced, never having used their own oven to professional bakers and food photographers. Even if you use your oven for storage instead of cooking, I believe you can create something interesting even if it’s not something you’d see in a magazine or cookbook. Sometimes those are the most interesting dishes and experiences. I don’t think there’s just one time you have a rite of passage moment with cooking, it can be just as fluid.
In what way do you think food can be used to promote solidarity within the queer community and encourage the dismantling of self-imposed barriers?
The series really surprised me. There are many different relationships and perspectives associated with food and with the act of eating a meal. For example, there’s an episode with Steph & Max where they make Steph’s Mom’s Manicotti recipe. Steph’s mom recently passed away from cancer. A lot of memories came up during filming and there were tears shed. It felt like a healing moment for her and a way for her to open up comfortably with queer people who cared about her. Cooking can be emotional, it can be triggering, it can be fun and playful. The diverse experiences people shared with me around their memories of food were very eye opening and inspired me to keep going with the series. Creating this intimacy inside queer people’s homes can break down barriers in itself. I think it can really help people from different backgrounds and perspectives understand each other in an intimate way. We live in a culture where we only care about people we know. There are millions of people we don’t know and people don’t care about. By promoting sharing a meal with people that you haven’t met before can be very beneficial to different cultures.
The Home video series feature everyday queer individuals who share not only their recipes, but also their stories. What is one of your favourite features?
It’s hard to choose a favourite feature. Everyone who shared their experiences were so open and vulnerable with me. I appreciate that so much from everyone who participated. It’s very hard to open up and be vulnerable. I think the series works as a whole when all of the perspectives are put together with each episode. You hear short perspectives of queer people’s experiences, whether it’s someone dealing with an eating disorder, or the ingrained racism and misogyny in London, or how New York promotes queer culture. All of these perspectives are current, they show who queer people are in 2017. These glimpses into our lives are often at times experiences we don’t hear in society. These voices are important and as a whole says so much about our every day growing and changing communities.
How do you see Home expanding in the future?
I’d love to see the series open to a wider audience, not just with queer people. It’s important that queer people take space from the mainstream industries. We don’t see queer people on BBC Food or The Food Network or HGTV. We see a very sterilised version of people. I want to take up as much space in these media platforms because there aren’t enough honest representations on TV and film for queer people. I hope one day I’m able to use my platform and privilege to help people in need; whether it’s setting up queer dinner nights, soup kitchens, donation based dinners, therapy sessions etc. I want to make sure that the series gives to the community as much as it can once it grows.
Vegan Chicken & Biscuits Recipe
- 4 tablespoons dairy-free butter (Or regular unsalted butter)
- 1/4 cup plain/all purpose flour
- 2 cups plant based milk (or whole milk)
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons “Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base Stock” or any veggie stock you have.
- 1 tablespoon sage
- 1 tablespoon rosemary
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- 1 pack of Quorn vegan “chicken” pieces
- black pepper and salt to taste
- Place a stock pot on medium heat. Melt butter and add flour.
- Cook the flour and butter for about 4 minutes.
- Slowly add the soy milk, little by little, stirring with a whisk assuring no clumps. Wait till the mixture thickens before adding more milk. You will shock the mixture and lose the thickness in the gravy if you add it too fast.
- Once all the milk is added and the mixture begins to thicken, add the 2 tablespoons “Better Than Bouillon, No Chicken Base Stock” to 1 cup of warm water and dissolve.
- Add the water and stock to the gravy.
- Add the sage, rosemary, sriracha, black pepper and salt.
- Add the vegan chicken pieces.
- Bring to a boil, then bring down to low heat. Let simmer for 10 minutes
- 1 red onion
- 5 garlic cloves
- 3 medium carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 1/2 head of broccoli
- 2 ears of corn
- 2 tablespoons of dairy-free butter
- Melt butter. Add red onion and cook till translucent
- Add garlic, cook for two minutes.
- Add carrots, celery, broccoli and corn and cook for 8 minutes.
- 2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons of COLD dairy-free butter, cubed (Or unsalted butter)
- 3/4 cup soy milk (Or whole milk)
- Place dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Add cubed vegan butter and mix together with a pastry blender or fork till the butter and flour looks like “meal” or until butter looks like small pebbles. It’s important to use cold butter for the biscuits.
- Add soy milk.
- Gently knead together, keeping the dough cold, till the dough is formed in a slightly sticky ball.
- First, place the veggies in a cast iron pan. Then pour the gravy and chicken mixture on top mixing together. Leave room in the pan so the mixture doesn’t over flow in the oven.
- Form two-three inch sized patties from the biscuit dough and place on top of the mixture.
- Brush soy milk or vegan butter on top of the biscuit.
- Add herbs, garlic powder, salt and pepper on top of the biscuit.
- Bake at 450 degrees F for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown.
Follow the Home: Queer Cooking series on Instagram, their website and Facebook.